[Ed.: as a basis for discussion. IME, the FO-based stats are the best available for reducing noise when you're evaluating how good of a team you've got.]
Hey guys, I don't know about you, but 99% of the conversations I've seen or heard about Rich Rodriguez's future at the University of Michigan hinge on how much each person thinks the team has improved. So obviously, the question is how much have we improved, exactly?
To start off, I'm going to make a few assumptions and attempt to defend them. First, very few people can simply watch the games, watch the highlights and determine if their own team has gotten better. Frankly, we don't know enough about the game on a micro level for our eyeball test to mean anything, not to mention the TV angles don't have large parts of the play, we don't know what play was called, etc.
Secondly, no mere mortal is actually capable of rating teams, especially the mediocre ones. There are around 50 games a week during the season, and while many of us wish we could be superfans, we simply are not capable of watching that many games in any meaningful sense. If you aren't watching the games, what are you basing your eyeball rankings off of?
Because of those two assumptions, the only place we can really look for improvement is found in statistics.
Statistics? @#$@, like math?
Don't they lie or something?
Well, yeah sometimes. There are many different ways to look at football statistically, and frankly, all of them have fairly severe flaws. Football simply has too many intangibles to model mathematically as well as baseball. However, that doesn't mean that all statistical analysis of football is useless, just that you have to be careful not to overstate your case and to look at the data in as many ways as possible. For this diary, we're going to look at three major ways of quantifying football games. The goal is to compare the results and see if we can get some sort of idea of what's going on.
OK so what are these different ways? Didn't Brian post about FEI or something?
The first, and most common, are methods that mostly rely on looking at who won against who and/or by how much. This is the type of method used by Sagarin, Massey and more. For the BCS formulations, Massey and Sagarin are not allowed to use margin of victory in their calculations. However, when Massey and Sagarin use margin of victory, their models are more accurate.
The second one we'll look at is basically drive analysis. This is FEI, and is best explained by Football Outsiders:
The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) considers each of the nearly 20,000 possessions every season in major college football. All drives are filtered to eliminate first-half clock-kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores. A scoring rate analysis of the remaining possessions then determines the baseline possession efficiency expectations against which each team is measured. A team is rewarded for playing well against good teams, win or lose, and is punished more severely for playing poorly against bad teams than it is rewarded for playing well against bad teams.
The last one we'll look at is an analysis that uses a play by play analysis. Again, Football Outsiders:
The S&P+ Ratings are a college football ratings system derived from the play-by-play data of all 800+ of a season's FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). There are three key components to the S&P+:
Elsewhere in the thoughts of people who are Dave Brandon. Brandon speaking on the football team's season:
"The team has the opportunity to practice 15 days and prepare for a bowl game, which they've earned the right to," Brandon said. "I have so consistently stated what my process is, how I do this, and what is in the best interest of the program. That's what I do, and that's what I'm going to do. All of this desire for information sooner, all this speculation is fueling curiosity — it doesn't change how I'm doing my job.
"Back when we were 5-0, I said (this would be the evaluation process), along the way, I've said it, after exciting wins I've said it. This is how I'm going to do my job. I have not equivocated on that at all. Just because people out there are stirring the pot, that's not going to deter what I'm going to do."
Since every scenario out there has Michigan in a bowl on New Year's Day or a few days after Christmas (the Insight is the 28th), the final word will have to wait a full month. Stanford is likely headed to the Fiesta Bowl on January first, so a hypothetical transition could take place immediately without putting Harbaugh in the same bind Miles or Kelly was. There's a theory floating out there that letting Rodriguez coach the bowl is tantamount to keeping him for 2011, but given the Harbaugh situation I don't think that's true. It's not an indication either way.
Denard Robinson: awesome. Not a quarterback. So Denard Robinson is the Big Ten's offensive player of the year, which is nice and obvious. He's also not even on the coaches' All Big Ten list, which lolwut? I get Scott Tolzien—he may not have to throw much but when he does it's in the chest of his receiver every time—but Dan Persa? He's got the numbers, I guess, but being at the helm of an offense that's actually good at scoring and stuff is kind of important for a QB and the Wildcats are just 51s in total offense, 74th in scoring, and 21st in passer efficiency. That last number sounds good but is only 5th in a QB-heavy Big Ten. Kirk Cousins, Tolzien, Stanzi, and Pryor are all ahead of him with Denard not far behind and with a vast advantage on the ground.
In other All Big Ten QB news, Terrelle Pryor is still as likeable as Stalin.
Steadily more and more likeable. Meanwhile, Tate Forcier explained to his local paper his thought process about staying with the program after the infamous "I'm out" moment that sent Tom scrambling to Papa Forcier to put out the fire. Via MGoShoe:
“It’s hard to go from starting to backing up. A lot of people told me to leave. I wanted to leave. But it was just too hard. I didn’t want to leave the (coaching) staff or these players. I felt I was going to be a part of something great.”
“Two quarterbacks have to play in this offense. It might not happen every game, but you’re going to get your chance. I’m not banking on Denard getting injured. Nothing like that. But in this offense, you never know what can happen.”
“A lot of people would think me and Denard would have something against each other because he starts, but Denard is a good guy. We hang out. And he works hard. What’s hard for me is he’s having so much success and there’s nothing you can do about it except stay ready.”
“I’ve learned to be way more humble. I look back at freshman year, and I was a little cocky. I was getting too caught up in seeing myself on TV every week. I think that would happen to anybody who would go from being a regular kid in high school to a national stage like that. It was crazy.”
I said something early in the year about how Michigan would need Forcier down the stretch, and they did. He finished off the Illinois win and was a third and ten stop away from driving for the tie against Iowa; if he'd actually been "out" Michigan would not have been able to redshirt Gardner and we probably wouldn't be talking about retaining Rodriguez at all.
I also said I'd be meh about Rodriguez leaving, and while that's largely true I think my overwhelming feeling would be sadness that guys like Denard and Forcier and everyone else who signed up for the RR era would not get to finish their careers on the terms they started them.
These uniforms designed for personal fouls. Another reason it's good to get away from Nike:
"The gloves had a black ‘Block O' on the inside when you put your hands together and so that's what (Posey) was trying to do," receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said.
But he didn't celebrate his redemption for long. The referee gave Posey a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration.
Gesturing to the crowd, even if it's your crowd, gets you a flag. Unless it's this…
…or dozens of other motions like shushing the crowd that go unpunished every week. File under the massive pile of data that suggests the NCAA should just drop excessive celebration penalties for anything short of taunting.
Opinions I Officially Do Not Care About but you might. Opinions on the Rodriguez job thing—you know, that—from Mets Maize:
Having said that, I do support Rich Rodriguez returning for 2011 IF changes are made on the defensive staff. My reasons are pretty consistent listed above, but the one that stands out the most is the offense. It simply makes no sense to fire the only man who can take this offense to the next level next year. People often talk about how "young" our defense is, which sort of implies we have a relatively older offense. If by "older" we mean not true-freshman, then yes, we have a veteran offense. But the fact is we're prime for not only 2011 but also 2012--Denard's senior year. So that leaves the defense to which I ask...
What added benefit does a change in HEAD COACH give to the DEFENSE that a change in DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR wouldn't bring?
Beaford at Maize n Brew:
Rodriguez should get broomed and Harbaugh should be installed here, but if that doesn't happen my reaction will largely be "meh." In the three years that he has been the head coach, the offense have demonstrably improved, just as we thought it would. The problem is that the defense has actually regressed each year. Even before the Woolfolk injury, this defense was set up to be likely the worst in program history.
And Markus at MNB drops references to David Foster Wallace on Federer and Brian Phillips on Pele, which means it gets autolinked. It's long and not really blockquote-friendly but recommended. My mom, by the way, believes Rodriguez is "not a Michigan Man" and would like to see him gone. Road Games also drops Richard Buckner.
Let's say it again, then.
Etc.: Anne Hathaway proposes "Anne Does Ann Arbor." As someone who has viewed the Get Smart remake I heartily endorse this idea. This Week In Schadenfreude is epic this week. Apparently I missed the date on the "Everyone in Iowa Drinks Four Loko" fanpost at Black Heart Gold Pants, but seriously I'm guessing that happened again after they lost to Minnesota. Brabbs surveys the Michigan-vs-cancer matchups going on. AnnArbor.com's take on the Denard Robinson story.
If you're looking for an MGoShirt or ten this holiday season you should know a few things. One thing: the Bo Shirt has been redesigned and, after a long trek through the wilderness, is now good to go permanently. A chunk of all sales go to the Bo Foundation:
Also Moe's and UGP have extended their deal to today for MGoReaders. Enter "mgocybertuesday" in the MGoStore, on Moe's, UGP Classics, or UGP itself and you'll get 20% off your order. Proceeds from the Brock Mealer and Phil Brabbs shirts go to those guys, as well.
Michigan gets to go to a bowl this year, spawning a beleaguered cheer from the beleaguered, filthy masses.
Bowls are made of… wood. And wood has a winning record against… water… so… A WITCH
But which crappy bowl? And which surprisingly un-crappy opponent shall face them? An exploration follows.
Punch Yourself In A Circle, Please
The Big Ten has a unique situation on its hands with three one-loss teams and then the Great Heap Of Mediocrity: four 7-5 teams with a fifth on the way if Illinois can beat Western Michigan on the road this weekend. (Yes, this game is happening. No, no one knows why.) Bowls can pick any team that's within a game of any other team and everyone in the Heap is 4-4 or 3-5, so literally any bowl eligible team in the league not ticketed for the BCS (OSU, Wisconsin) or Citrus (MSU) could slot into the Outback Bowl, where they will be crushed to little tiny bits by the #3 or #4 SEC team.
Michigan could end up in the…
- Outback Bowl against the #3/4 SEC team
- Gator Bowl against the #6 SEC team
- Insight Bowl against the #4 Big Twelve team
- Texas Bowl against the #6 Big Twelve team
- Dallas Bowl against the #8 Big Twelve team
Opponents range in fearsomeness from Alabama/South Carolina to Kansas State/Texas Tech. Everyone's pointless bowl projections have Michigan behind Penn State and Iowa and in front of Northwestern and Illinois, invariably slotting them in the Insight against Missouri (er…) or Nebraska (argh?) or Oklahoma State (guh).
The Big Twelve has four 10-2 teams this year and will apparently not be getting a second BCS bid (thanks, Big East!)—whoever gets locked into the Insight is going up against a team that looks much better than it. The dropoff from the Insight to the Texas Bowl is vast, as whoever's slotted into that draws Baylor. The Gator Bowl is actually a much more manageable matchup: almost everyone has 7-5 Florida as the opponent.
In order of win probability:
- Dallas [Kansas State or Texas Tech]
- Texas [Baylor]
- Gator [Florida]
- Outback/Insight [Random 10-2 Big 12 Team, Alabama, or LSU]
In order of likelihood:
This is a bizarre situation that will resolve itself next year when the Big Ten poaches one of those 10-2 Big Twelve teams and suddenly finds itself looking at a lot of favorable bowl matchups for the first time, but right now the Insight is a death trap to be avoided at all costs. Michigan's lost heavily to Iowa and Penn State but it's possible the Gator, which won the coin toss that decides which pick they'll get, surveys the sex appeal of Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan and goes with the team featuring a dreadlocked assassin and a defense even Florida can score on instead of probably better but less lucrative stodgy Big Ten Program with the same record, anyway.
You're Rooting For
A failure in cosmic justice that sees Michigan selected to play in the worst NYD bowl since last year, taking on fellow 7-5 struggler Florida in the Gator Bowl.
You're Staring Down The Barrel Of
A 10-2 Big Twelve team in the Insight.
The Outback also surveys the field of candidates and elects to put Michigan opposite LSU or Alabama for storylines (Les Miles vs alma mater/2012 preview) over competitiveness (not so much).
Michigan will not fall behind Northwestern or Illinois in the pecking order.
These next few weeks will be crucial for the finish of Michigan's recruiting class. This weekend and next weekend will see Michigan hosting lots of talent. Here's a few updates on some of those recruits, a new visitor scheduled, and a current commitment.
6'0", 190 lbs.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Michigan was outside of Wayne's top list for a while, and they weren't sure if they would get an official visit from him. He decided that the Wolverines would be included in his top five, which will result in the official. He'll be in Ann Arbor this weekend with his mother to take in the campus.
I'm really just looking for comfort, and I want the coaches to make it clear to me how I'm going to fit into the system. I'm hoping to see a good environment and campus, and how the coaching staff works. I'll also be looking at depth charts, and I know Michigan needs defensive backs.
An important factor in this process will be Wayne's mother, who will be accompanying him on this visit.
My mom is really looking for a lot of the same things that I am. She wants to feel comfortable with the school, and feel comfortable enough to let me go there.
His mother has been on all his trips with him so far and will also be at his final visit to Nebraska. Lyons will be making his announcement at the Army All American game, and Michigan has been making some strides with him. Also visiting this weekend are four star Maryland DB Blake Countess, who Michigan is in good shape for, and current commit DB Delonte Hollowell. I'll update as I hear any more recruits that will be in town.
6'2", 230 lbs.
Dawson had told me a few weeks back that he wasn't as interested in Michigan as some of the other schools in his top seven. He has always maintained that Michigan is in that top seven, but they needed some work to do. They will now get a chance to do that work, as he's decided to schedule a visit to Ann Arbor.
I'm coming up there on January 22nd. Michigan's in my top seven, and I didn't get to go there for a game so I thought I'd come and take a look. I don't really have any leaders right now, but I'm looking for a place that I feel comfortable. I haven't really seen as much of Michigan, so they're still a little behind some others.
As he noted Michigan is behind, but like Lyons a visit is a step in the right direction. Dawson won't be making his decision until signing day, so there's plenty of time to think about it, plenty of time for Michigan to let him know how much they want him. The other schools he lists in his top seven are Tennessee, USC, Florida, Louisville, Kentucky, and Oregon.
6'1", 210 lbs.
Kellen's family is as excited as anyone for him to join the Michigan family. His father is an MGoBlog reader, and wanted me to share a few things with his fellow fans. The pictures below are of Kellen with former Michigan linebacker Jarrett Irons at a family get together, and the second with Coach Rodriguez and former Michigan great Desmond Howard. Below that is a highlight tape from one of Kellen's games a few weeks ago against St. Thomas, where his team won 33-28 (ED: I'm having problems with uploading the video to YouTube. I'll post it when it goes up). Enjoy.
- New Jersey TE Jack Tabb is visiting North Carolina this weekend, and most likely Arkansas on the 10th. He's hoping to have his decision made by Christmas. Michigan has put themselves in good position with Tabb after his official visit.
From this point on I don't care about the following opinions on what Rich Rodriguez deserves after three years:
- Yours, unless you are Dave Brandon (call me)
I also don't have anything that's definitive. We know that there is no McMahon-style "you're firrrrrrrred" press conference today, and given the way things work that means Rodriguez will be the coach through the bowl game. We know that the rumors were heavy enough for Dave Brandon to personally debunk them on the twitters. We can read the withering sarcasm between the lines of this from Brandon…
…and if it's not withering sarcasm* I don't want to know.
I've got some stuff in the inbox and from elsewhere. A bit of it says Rodriguez is getting fired, period, citing "impeccable sources." Another from before the OSU game reports second hand that Harbaugh "has an offer" while expressing skepticism at the nature of the information given its timing—what if Michigan had won Saturday? Some other stuff has filtered to me via talkative former players all saying "canned," as well.
The part I trust—the one that called Brandon as the likely new AD and tipped me off about the Alabama game—is far from certain except about one thing: anyone who says anything with certainty is full of it. Brandon keeps his own counsel and makes his own decisions. Since Brandon has a direct line to the obvious head coaching candidate there will be no search committee or consultants tapped or planning, cutting off virtually all of the usual leak sources. It's unlikely anyone has anything until hours before it breaks, at which point it will be everywhere.
I'm not inclined to put much in the widespread chatter that had RR out the door after the OSU game and seems to be continuing since its sourcing seems to be pissed-off-you-guys folk clearly unhappy with the state of the program taking small interactions and interpreting them as they desire. However, the vibe I'm getting from other people who seem to be on the fence about what to do—or at least close to it—also makes it seem unlikely Rodriguez is back. Emphasis on all the qualifying words in the previous sentence, please. I've got nothing solid because no one does.
In the event that happens, Harbaugh is the obvious #1 guy, with the main sticking point being Harbaugh's willingness to accept the imposition of a silly, off-putting buyout in case any NFL teams get ideas. It sounds like if the decision is made to pursue Harbaugh, something will be worked out and he will be introduced essentially immediately. They won't get rid of Rodriguez unless they know they have the next coach lined up.
So… that's what I've got. I'm uncertain about everything. I guess that's good from a program standpoint, but it's frustrating when the next month will see Michigan's future hang in the balance with nothing trustworthy to put a foot on.
*(Not specifically about Desmond, who tweeted a couple things about how he had faith in Brandon to make the decision. More the "Appreciate the passion & interest," random talk-radio raver.)
11/27/2010 – Michigan 7, Ohio State 37 – 7-5, 3-5 Big Ten
The Ohio State game has the power to make whatever happens in it seem like Michigan's season in microcosm, and so the overriding theme of the 2010 season is looking up at the scoreboard at halftime to see Michigan on pace for about 500 yards and about twenty points. Michigan had 238 yards and seven points this time around and instead of a competitive game we got the usual.
The last couple weeks the "loss will cause me to" bit has been "repeat I expected 7-5." That kind of mantra to keep your boiling rage under control has been necessary and less than effective as Michigan has fallen behind massively against good opponents and shown little ability to get up, causing the chattering class to rush to their keyboards so they can point out the lack of progress after Saturday. In the Game-as-microcosm sense, it's true. Last year Michigan was an opponent that got Tresselballed to death. This year they weren't good enough to pose the vague threat. They made Tresselball into things like 98 yard touchdown runs (save an iffy holding call after ninety of those yards) and 85 yard kickoff return TDs.
In the larger scheme it's not. In the nonconference Michigan traded Eastern Michigan for UConn, who may have lost to Temple but is also a game away from the Big East title, and traded home for road against Notre Dame. The conference record of the two teams not on their Big Ten schedule (excluding the game between the two) is 4-10. Last year it was 7-7. They got two more wins. Last year their average yardage differential excluding the Baby Seal U game was –57 yards. Even if you hack out this year's most lopsided game against Bowling Green—something that's not fair to the 2010 team because of the schedule upgrade—this year they're +18. That's a huge swing.
And yet. Today even the most insanely patient Michigan fan feels zo unzatisfied.
This is the point where some sort of post from the summer that took a cold-eyed look at what Michigan had and what it would have in 2011 and set a baseline—what's that? It's Some Sort of Post From The Summer's music!
I know it's my role as the crazy fan blogger to demand the head of the coach when he fails to live up to my crazy expectations, but if we're seriously talking about an 8-4 regular season "not being enough" for Rodriguez to get a year four Michigan should have just fired him already. If this ends up being an 8-4 team the Mathlete's luck chart will have Michigan considerably on the happy side of the ledger. …
"This is still Michigan" is demonstrably false. Even in year three this remains a desperately young team with major holes in the secondary and no upperclass quarterbacks. Rodriguez's responsibility for the state of the state of the roster is limited to the absence of Terrelle Pryor, or any marginally acceptable option at quarterback from his first two months on the job, and a couple of would-be-sophomores Rodriguez did not add to the end of his first full recruiting class. You can wave your hands and say "Michigan! Rabble rabble rabble!" all you want but if you dressed these guys up like Generic State University people would expect them to go .500. …
My personal measuring stick for Rodriguez: yardage parity and a winning record. I would be displeased with 7-6 but willing to grit my teeth and give Rodriguez a shot in 2011, when he will return both specialists, every starter on offense save Steve Schilling and all but three starters on defense. That will seem exceptionally kind to many, I know, but literally no coach in the country could take the leftovers after Mallett's transfer and do anything other than flail as Rodriguez has.
2008 was a complete waste. To me, this is year two for Rodriguez, and 2011 is when I expect rubber to meet road.
That was before Troy Woolfolk blew up and Vlad Emilien and Justin Turner lit out. (While not having Emilien around is grating apparently Michigan just came up craps with Turner, who is heavily rumored to be out at West Virginia and headed DII; since this was a guy with an OSU offer it was not apparent this would happen.)
There are arguments that 7-5 is not good enough because this was the most unsatisfying 7-5 possible, and, yes, it was. Michigan's record in close games is 3-0, 4-0 if you want to count the Purdue game (UMass does not register since it featured an unrecovered onside kick). They fell behind massively in every loss and never had a chance to drive for even a tie in the second half of any. I've said before that if Rodriguez is broomed and Harbaugh installed here my reaction will be "meh" quickly followed by "what about Denard?" Because this is Michigan football Rodriguez will take Clemson to the BCS four times, but even that certainty doesn't dull the shine on Harbaugh.
But it's pretty hard for me to go back to what I thought before the season, see what it is, see what we got, and think Rodriguez didn't put himself in position for Put Up Or Shut Up 2011. Barely.
Non-Bullets of Something Or Other
Well, that was horrible. Awful refereeing plagued that game. There were the two inexplicable OSU personal fouls after TDs—the first I thought was for the dive but that was a legit dive with two guys coming at him—the iffy penalty on the 98-yarder, a terrible holding call on Steve Schilling, and a non-review of what seemed clearly like a non-interception followed immediately by a review of an OSU non-fumble that screwed Michigan both incompetent and competent.
Also, Michigan got called for "encroachment" before the snap, on offense. Can that even happen? WTF?
Well, that was horrible. Darryl Stonum emo 2010:
Well, that was horrible. Mmmm Seth Brokhuizen rugby punt. Kicker Nick Sheridan? Kicker Nick Sheridan. Not his fault he's seeing the field. Save us Justin Meram. Anyone.
Well, that was horrible. Michigan got what seemed like its first procedure penalties of the year from someone other than Taylor Lewan when Je'Ron Stokes and Jeremy Jackson picked up five-yard penalties. Jackson's wiped out a 30-yard gain and led to Michigan's only three and out of the first half.
Well, that was horrible. At least we won the "don't look retarded" game. 2-0, baby!
Well, that was horrible. Further adventures in hating Michigan fans:
Well, that was horrible. God… Roy Roundtree… not all of those were easy, but… arrrrrrgh.
BONUS psychoanalysis note: since everyone does it I might as well offer a protip so the evaluations are less annoying. If you're going to respond to something I say by discovering the way in which my brain is broken, you should say "excessively skeptical of using emotion in decisions and too fond of numbers."
Wind-down, offseason, bowl, etc. note: I am burned out. I'm not making any promises about UFRing this game. I might, I might not. This week is going to be relatively light and then we'll start talking about bowl stuff and whatnot, with an eye towards what will or will not happen with Rodriguez. I'll have something up this afternoon about what I've got, which isn't definitive at all but exists.
A new commit for the Wolverines means this hits the front page. Action since last rankings:
11-21-10 Notre Dame loses commitment from Justice Hayes.
11-22-10 Michigan gains commitment from Justice Hayes.
11-23-10 Northwestern loses commitment from Sean Cotton.
11-24-10 Iowa loses commitment from Melvin Gordon.
11-25-10 Purdue gains commitment from Doug Gentry.
11-27-10 Penn State gains commitment from Matt Zanellato.
Rivals and Scout have updated their rankings over the past couple weeks, so there are some shakeups in there.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings are on the "RR" scale, which is on a scale from about 5 to about 6.1. Unrated prospects are given a 5.1 rating, on par with the worst of any Big Ten commit last year. Scout is on the 5-star system (unranked players earn star), and ESPN uses grades out of 100 (unranked is 40 or 45). Full data after the jump.
Before Desmond Howard, before I knew there was a thing such as rushing stats (let alone scoring defense), I learned to watch Michigan football with my dad and his friends. This is the opposite of a stadium experience: standing, hollering at refereeing, displays of game-induced emotions, etc. are not appropriate. The way old Jewish men watch football is to sit on very comfortable couches, the day's host holding the remote, while his wife puts out a spread of non-nutritious delectables that he isn't allowed to eat. We talk about this guy's law firm, that guy's consulting business, and by the end of the game everybody's had a chance to get their really cool thing out there.
My dad's best friend's really cool thing is usually an update on his nephew, Ann Arbor-born Mayer Hawthorne. This is typically prefaced with "my nephew's in the entertainment business…" Except this time, the Hawthorne update was totally one-upped by another old guy, who was like "my son's in entertainment too: Mike Posner, have you heard of him?"
For those not familiar with Posner (pictured above—you know, the one who isn't a tiny 2-star freshman safety) his shtick is Justin Timberlake oohhh girrrl cooing while looking like a well kempt bad-ass. If you apply this same formula to punk, you get Good Charlotte. If you apply it to rock, you get Nickelsuck. If you throw in Jeebus you get Creed. The formula is old, annoying, and tremendously successful. More importantly, it has been giving the music world's innovators and intellectuals and poets jealousy fits since Elvis Presley realized dodging tackles didn't require tacklers, and Big Joe Turner's friends muttered the '50s slang equivalent to "WTF!"
If you haven't yet figured out where I'm going with this analogy, Ohio State is Mike Posner, and every other teen idol, and boy band, and crappy formulaic rock band whose astounding popularity has deigned to piss me off. There's nothing creative about it, and any edge is some sort of manufactured, watered-down version of something that got stuffy parents upset 10 years ago. You will never say to yourself "gee, that is a really brilliant Creed lyric" the same way you'll never say "that play that Tressell came up with was absolutely genius."
Really, the Posners and Timberlakes added their own ludicrous hours and amazing talent to the formula, just as Ohio State's starters have probably put their bodies through more pain over the last three years than Michigan's football program has given my soul. But that's small consolation to those who imagine themselves artistically superior when the guy cooing on a Carson Daly show is getting megamillions and adulation and a blank check of support from the industry.
I will no more ever understand why people will keep going gaga for Mike Posner or Nickelsuck than I will understand why they keep committing to play football for Jim Tressell, except if every song is going to have the same beat anyway, it's best that everybody who likes music for its beat will agree on one song so everyone knows the words.
And there's the rub: cool begets cool.
All of this music bitching is hypocritical from a Michigan fan like me, because I had zero complaints when Michigan was chugging along on Bo's fumes and the cachet of four decades of success.
A Rich Rodriguez team is musical superiority, but just as a band will be judged by hits and concert turnout, a college football team is measured in wins and rivalry wins. Those of us declaring "Peanut Butter Jelly Time!" in late 2007 weren't doing so solely because Michigan's playcalling was going to be a lot smarter. The dancing bananas were because we were Warner Bros. and figured we'd just co-opted the college football equivalent of Nirvana: by 2010, painted fake buffoons obsessed with the smell of their own reverb were supposed to be toppling before 60-21 obliterations in Columbus. This was our destiny!
I spent the second half of my college years as the best friend of Oblivion, an intellectual Ann Arbor hard rock band (sample mp3) that we were convinced was going to make big. Those years provided plenty of opportunities to harden hatred and envy of Creed's success-based success. Eventually, we all managed to at least stop worrying so much about how much money Scott Stapp was making, and concentrate on making better music. Likewise, hating the Sweater Vest for his substantively vapid program gets Michigan nowhere. Michigan's purpose is to beat him, not be him.
And us: we're the friends, really with no more ability to generate Michigan wins over Ohio State than Mayer's uncle has of making a nerdy soul singer cooler than Mr. Posner's son.
1. There's a rhythm to Detroit Jewish baby boomer football viewing, where the interruptions for plays are conversational interludes that allow the speaker to think of the right word (proper word selection is important in this sub-culture) or to move on to the next thing.
1970s-80s Michigan football was perfect for this kind of fandom, a steady beat of 3-yard play, setup, 4-yard play, setup, 4-yard play, setup, OH!, setup, 4-yard play, setup, 0-yard play, setup, AWW, punt, who wants pie?
Michigan in the Rich Rod Era is no better fit for that room than I am: 25 YARD PASS!, setup wait no it's called back, setup, GREAT PAAA aww he dropped it, setup GO GO GO GO DAMMIT, setup, HEY REDZONE, setup, WHAT A THROW 1ST DOWN ON THE 5 – WAIT HOLDING HOW WAS THAT HOL—interception—Wait no that hit the ground, REVIEW REVIEW—0 yard run EXPLODING SQUIRRELS! Fumble.
It's tense, and punctuated, a Pavlovian tease-fest that goes to the red zone more than 60-somethings go to the bathroom, and just as often comes away with nothing more than a fart.
2. If you were around M in the early '00s he's that guy in Athletic Mic League—you know, the white one.
3. FYI: A fellow Wylie E. Groves Falcon. Also, Misopogal thinks he's awesome.
4. Golly gee whiz?
5. Or 40 years ago, if you're talking devil horn hand gestures.
6. It's not the subject. Muse does as much religion as Creed, and Muse is awesome. Furthermore, my favorite album of all time makes a hundred overt references to Catholicism. It's just that it does so in brilliant metaphorical lyrics and musical compositions written to complement the poeticism of those lyrics, all in the context of a cohesive, album-long concept:
7. Lefsetz.com, who is basically my Brian for music, says Mayer's just a marketing creation too.
What We Need is a Miracle
Do you know the penalty for a head coach who loses a 7th game in a row to Ohio State?
Death by torture!
They shove a living snake up your ass!
No, but that's very creative.
People start making up irrational reasons for axing you!
The lead singer of Oblivion summed up his feelings on our head coach's job in this text from last night:
Two totally irrational reasons to get rid of Richrod: 1.) "Miracles" never happen when he's coaching, and 2.) he's the unluckiest son of a bitch on the planet.
I have no rational reasons to not see another year with dilithium, only irrational ones.
The miracles thing was echoed in the comments yesterday in a TWIS bid by longtime MGoBoarder Tim Waymen:
I'm quitting the internet. No more TV, I want to stay the hell away from the Midwest except for Ann Arbor. This sucks.
Forget it. If he goes, he goes. He's a good coach, but maybe just not the right man for Michigan. I also blame God and the universe, karma, etc. How is this fair? We haven't had any miracles. I hoped that today would bring redemption for RR, but instead people now have a stronger case against him. Not just a close loss, but we're getting destroyed in a game I sincerely thought we could win.
That was in a thread criticizing – of all things – the refereeing, by the way. This is a typical response to any fanbase that remembers its good years better than its bad ones. Go back far enough and you'll find a group of unhappy Israelites at firemoses.com who thought parting the Red Sea and climbing a mountain to get directions straight from a 5-star deity is nice and all, but none of this is getting to us to the Promised Land. Dayenu.
More of this continued in the Emo Diaries of the week:
- Dr. Rodbaugh, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pimp, by Undefeated dream season of 1992 has the user tags Antietam, drang, and sturm, and basically says the fans deserve a new coach because this is a world where math is boring and (as once pointed out by Stephen Maturin) the verdict of the masses is seldom wrong.
- An avid follower of Brian's (currently) SB Nation column This Week in Schadenfreude, Meechigan Dan noted that recent championship teams all had a point when their brilliant coaches got their teams called in for the 'freude.
- JonSobel is sick of the bickering and arguing, says RR is Bo and Yost et al., but wants to fire him because it would shut everybody up.
- Oakland Press columnist and local radio press's Bob Wojnowski weighed in, earning him a ruthless MGoFisking by Ann Arbor Cardinal.
It's clear now that, while Dave Brandon is (I hope to God) going to be spending the next few months making this call the right way, i.e. exploring all avenues of information and options, we're going to be using a lot of Internet to share our views on it. So, before we embark on When Should We Fire This Guy: Round 3, let's set some ground rules:
Keep Rich Rodriguez
Fire Rich Rodriguez
|Let's first admit:||
1. We are disappointed with the results to date. Even if this year met expectations for the beginning of this year, 3-9, 5-7 and 7-6/8-5 was not the start to RR's Michigan career we envisioned.
2. Rich Rodriguez has made terrible, possibly fireable mistakes in his handling of the defense, especially in building his defensive staff.
3. Even with expected improvements, the 2011 team is probably not at a championship level.
4. Jim Harbaugh is a strong candidate, would unite the fanbase, and might not be this available again.
5. Keeping Rich Rodriguez as a win-or-go lame duck in 2011 is an anchor on recruiting, one that has been putting a noticeable damper on this already.
6. Unless RR can outperform expectations next year, something he's never done at Michigan, we've already lost the battle of perception.
1. This is a legitimately great offense, perhaps among the best in Michigan history (despite being young and mistake-prone) and Rich Rodriguez is the reason the offense is so good. Without him, we're looking at a rough transition, probably more transfers.
2. He's been building the program with integrity and keeping to his bedrock principles.
3. We haven't yet seen what RR is fully capable of. This is young guy who was a proven winner before coming here, and a big 2011 is not only possible, but could lead to several decades of great football.
4. If we fire RR and Harbaugh doesn't come/work out, we could become Notre Dame.
5. It's not exactly easy to find established coaches who share Michigan's higher academic expectations and also keep up with the Joneses of Ohio State and the SEC who have no such compunctions.
|Best-case scenario:||Jeff Casteel replaces Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator (although this probably keeps Gibson) and we see immediate returns in the bowl game. The defense gets to average in 2011, while the offense reaches maturity and we are next year's Oregon. This leads to Top 5 recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013, and we're a 10-win machine again until RR retires a Hall of Fame coach with 4 national championships in the 2030s, when his star disciple is given the reigns.||Jim Harbaugh takes over, convinces most of the recruits and players to stay, and rides the positive press of a new hire to finish 2011 recruiting strong. He manages to translate RR's players to a wide open and almost as effective Spread HD offense, while bringing a new attitude to defense. We beat MSU and OSU, and then in 2012 upset Alabama, and the Empire of Bo witnesses a Justinian revival.|
|Worst-case scenario:||This offseason witnesses more transfers and injuries, and another failure of a DC is brought in and told to run the 3-3-5 though he's never coached it before. A loss at MSU makes RR a lame duck, recruits know it, and the team goes on to a lame 7-win season, followed by a depressing coaching search that seriously uses the words "Brady Hoke" again.||Well, first let's imagine Harbaugh doesn't want to come, or that he was just lucky to have some great players at Stanford and can't repeat that. Players recruited to play for RR quit on him or transfer out, and it's 2008-2010 all over again, except by the time New Guy has his guys the Ohio State ticker is up to 10 years and Michigan State is a solid, Wisconsin-level Big Ten 2nd tier power.|
|Outlook for 2011||Offense is older and probably less prone to big mistakes, but the defense is very far away and we really have zero evidence that the defense can get better since it has regressed every year under this regime. However, the schedule is easier, with Ohio State at home and some of the tougher Big Ten teams off the schedule, and an Oregonian romp is not outside the realm of possibility.||Rebuilding with a new coach is a major gamble, especially because we would be firing the best possible person to run next year's offense given the personnel and their system experience. However, it's an instant press success, and a good hire cuts the anchor that head coach job speculation puts on recruiting. 2011 under any coach but Rodriguez probably has 1 or 2 more losses than otherwise, a sunk cost to regime change.|
|Outlook for 2012 and beyond||Continuing with Rich Rod means we are effectively putting all of our chips down on the bet that he will be successful next year. Otherwise, it's another wasted year, another class of guys who weren't recruited by their future head coach, and the likelihood of pulling out a miracle replacement is substantially lower than it is now.||Another rebuilding phase now would be a huge gamble on the new guy. However, keeping RR is also a gamble, and if there is going to be a regime change again, better to do it earlier. Michigan still has enough cachet that a bout of good press and success can attract 4- and 5-stars. I doubt Calvin Magee stays if RR goes, but it's possible that a few positives of the Rodriguez era can be retained in the fabric of the program and what we end up with is a rebirth of Bo's legacy that has had a Barwicizing wake-up call.|
Next comes a crap bowl, and then next year, which should be better just because so many of the starters return, and even the most ardent supporters of the coaching staff agree that some of them (the coaches) won't.
Luck and miracles are X factors that don't mean anything beyond the psychological mindset of the team, recruits, and donors. Not having a single Big Ten caliber cornerback or free safety option after three years of running the team, linebackers who still look clueless as 5th year seniors, alignment mistakes that one trip through a Jeff Casteel instructional video could clear up: these are long-term problems that may not be fixable without drastic action. Ray Vinopal is a gutsy kid who has already outperformed his highest recruiting expectations, but even so there's about 20 teams in the country who would probably take him right now over their free safety.
The Decimated Defense split blame between shitty luck, shitty recruiting/retention by Lloyd, and shitty retention/recruiting/player development by Rich Rod. A year later, the shitty luck has continued, and the shitty retention/recruiting/development by Rich Rod has gotten even worse than the Carr year it replaced. At this point, the defense is more than half the fault of the current head coach. Any discussion of firing him should begin there, and any case for keeping him must demonstrate that this trend can be reversed. Conversely, we're all agreed that Rodriguez can coach/recruit/scheme offense better than any candidate we could hope to replace him with.
Those parameters set, go forth and discuss, keeping every comment, for or against, higher minded than anything put out on the subject by the Detroit media. Given the spectacularly low (the opposite of Mornhinweg-ian) bar they're setting, this shouldn't be too hard. Then again, a substantive debate on a coaching fire/keep situation on an Internet message board is probably just asking for a miracle.
After jump: More Diaries.